08.12.2012 - 09.12.2012 6 °C
The last few days have been a struggle as I have been struck down with a cold. Erin was supposed to have done some blogging but it appears I am the official diarist for the trip. So what has happened?
On Saturday, 10 December, we decided we would head out to Sintra to check out some of the palaces and Dad and Beatriz would met us there for lunch. After struggling to find a train we realised there was a general strike and only the Metro system was running. So no Sintra services.
Dad ended up driving in to meet us at the old bull ring at Campo Pequeno and we went to the monastery at Mafra for a walk around. We arrived around 2pm so were running out of daylight but sat down for lunch of patinishcas de bacalhau (a codfish dish) and arroz de feijao (red bean rice). It was nice but as the patinishcas and some other bits and pieces were fried they didn't sit well with my cold and the onion in the rice upset Erin's new-found food intolerances. We probably weren't in the best frame of mind to be rating the meal.
Anyway, we went for a walk around the monastery and palace which is huge and a really good insight into the way the royals lived at that time. The opulence of the place (not to mention the number of deaths in construction) compared with the lives of the populace is sobering to say the least and the colocation of church and palace shows the influence the catholic church had over people and politics.
By the time the sun went down both Erin and I were feeling decidedly ill. Dad dropped us back at the Avenida da Liberdade in Lisbon and we walked back to the Beira Gare to get Allanah a light dinner before going home. A bifana (pork steak sandwich) hit the spot and we got a taxi home.
On Sunday the cold had really hit but we were scheduled to pick up the hire car at 10am and drive to oPorto via Nazare. Erin went out again to get breakfast supplies and we got everything packed up. I don't really know the details but Erin said some guy and his dog were walking along and the dog attacked her. Luckily it didn't have any teeth so she is unharmed. I think we should get a petition going for Erin to at least blog about this experience, i think there is a gem of a story there.
I went down to the local square to get a taxi and bring it back for our bags. We then spent about 45 minutes getting to the car hire place because the taxi was stuck due to a fun-run or something through the middle of the city. Yet again it struck me that we take a lot of little things for granted in Australia like the authorities making it known when a major event will disrupt traffic. In Australia there probably would also have been signed detours and special lanes set aside for buses and taxis to keep flowing.
Eventually we got to the Europcar office and picked up the car, a very nice little Peugeot 308 and started the drive out of Lisbon. We were having one last lunch with Dad and Beatriz in Nazare before heading off on our own. Now I will say up front that Erin is generally a very good navigator and has a great sense of direction but I suspect (though she still won't admit) she was starting to feel the effects of the cold I have. Anyway, this time around she was just rubbish. We missed the major turnoff from the A1 to Porto onto the lesser A8 which takes a more coastal route. Once we realised we were on the wrong road she then sent us through little backwater towns and actually took us off a highway which woul have got us there. Being tired and cranky already this did not sit well but she put an extra effort in to concentrate until we got to the right place and met up with Dad and Beatriz just outside Sao Martinho do Porto where Beatriz does her riding lessons.
We were running late by this time so we had just a quick tour of the facilities and then went for lunch. We went to a little restaurant on the marina which I had never been to before. I still wasn't feeling great but the seafood was sooooo good. Dad, Beatriz and I had percebos (barnacles) for starters. You could tell these were fresh because the sea water squirted everywhere when you tried to open them. For mains we just had a very simple grilled fish but the freshness made the difference. Erin generally doesn't eat much but she just kept going back for more here. The first time I have ever seen her go for 4ths. I should say that we only had 4 fish between the 5 people so it wasn't like She ate a huge amount.
After lunch we said our goodbyes, Dad gave us a "pao de lo" which is very typical and famous Portuguese cake which we have since found out Erin and Allanah don't like, lucky me. We drove to oPorto, arriving just on sunset and proceeded to get lost again. I stopped to take a look at the map myself and ended up asking an old gentleman for some directions. His response (in loose translation) was that it is very difficult explain but if we didn't mind he would get in the car and show us. He said if he stayed at home he would just be watching TV so he might as well get out for a walk. Well thankfully he did because we now recognise some of the places we went past and we realise our starting point was absolutely nowhere near where we thought it was and we probably would have driven around all night. Once we arrived at the apartment he just jumped out of the car and took off, not allowing us to properly thank him.
Now while the Lisbon apartment met our needs and the view was lovely, it is fair to say this oPorto apartment has blown us away. For essentially the same price as Lisbon we are in a great location, in the historical centre just down from the world heritage listed "Clerigos" church, between the main restaurants area and the river. The apartment is quite narrow but it has 3 bedrooms (2 single beds at the front, queen in main bedroom and another single in a third bedroom) large lounge/dining and a long, narrow kitchen with a spacious bathroom at the back. The host has been just lovely and we couldn't be happier. I would absolutely recommend this place to anyone thinking of staying in Porto.
Arriving on a Sunday night there was not a lot open but we wanted to go for a walk to try to get our bearings. Once again we were disoriented and ended up heading up in the wrong direction before accidentally finding the restaurant area and a nice little Churrasceira which happens to be about 5 minutes walk from the apartment. We asked for a mixed Espatada to share and were surprised when the waiter said that was perfect as it was very big. The guys on the table next to us arrived shortly before us and when their meal arrived we were a little shocked. They had asked for the sirloin steak grill and it arrived on a silver platter absolutely chock full of inch-thick steak. I think the guys were German and they bravely battled through it but we were nervous. In the end the mixed grill was just the right size with pork, chorizo, 1/2 chicken, beef, a plate of rice and a plate of chips. With drinks this cost just under 24 Euros.
The temperature must have dropped about 5 degrees while we were eating because it was absolutely freezing when we came out. Thankfully we crossed the road and recognised the square that Clerigos is in and knew we didn't have far to walk.